Local survey reveals reasons why residents don’t come forward for cervical screening
A survey across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes (BLMK) has revealed some of the common reasons why patients do not attend their cervical screening appointments.
During Cervical Screening Awareness week in June 2021, an online survey was created in collaboration between NHS Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Integrated Care System (BLMK ICS) and the local authority public health teams, to find out why patients were not attending their cervical screening appointments.
The national average for the uptake of cervical screening for the 25 – 49 age group was 70.4%. Across BLMK, the cervical screening uptake for the 25 – 49 age group was 67.73%, which is below the national average, particularly in Luton, which has one of the lowest uptakes nationally at 59.6%.
235 people participated in the survey, providing responses that identified three key reasons that prevented people from attending their appointment. Approximately 70% of respondents indicated that embarrassment, fear of discomfort and pain, or negative experiences were one of the main reasons they did not attend their appointment. Information and awareness of cervical screening and access to convenient appointments were two other key reasons.
Following the survey, a number of recommendations were made by ICS stakeholders including our Cancer Patient Forum, in order to improve the uptake of cervical screening and address some of the concerns raised by people living in BLMK. These include:
- Staff training to ensure that clinical and non-clinical staff have all of the information they need to help patients with any concerns they may have while booking or attending their appointment.
- Communications and awareness raising to improve the understanding of cervical cancer and the process of cervical screening.
- Easier access to appointments across BLMK.
Following the recommendations, staff training incorporating the feedback from the survey, has been booked for later this year. Advertising space has been booked to raise awareness of cervical screening and additional funding has been provided to GP practices to offer extra clinics and/or weekend access.
Sally Cartwright, Director of Public Health, Luton Council, said:
“We were pleased to work in collaboration with our local NHS and local authority partners to run this survey across our health system. We are dedicated to promoting health in our communities and we all wanted to find out why some residents in our area are not taking up the offer of a screening appointment.
“By working together to implement the recommendations that follow this survey, we hope that a joint approach to raising awareness will have a stronger impact on our local communities and encourage more residents to come forward.”
Anitha Bolanthur, Cancer Lead, Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group, said:
“We would like to thank everyone that took part in our survey. The responses have allowed us to further understand the feelings and experiences of our population when it comes to cervical screening, which enables us to improve our services and the way in which people access them. We always welcome suggestions to help improve the service and access for our population.
“A cervical screening is quick and relatively painless and it could save your life.